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Boris Johnson calls for ‘Trump deal’ on Iran

The Prime Minister said the existing deal had ‘many defects’, in a break from previous UK policy, and called for a new agreement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Frank Augstein/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Frank Augstein/PA)

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent, in New York

Boris Johnson has called for a “Trump deal” on Iran, as he said the US President is the “one guy” who can negotiate a new nuclear pact amid escalating tensions.

The Prime Minister said the existing deal was “bad” and had “many defects”, in a break from previous UK policy, and called for a new agreement.

And, in an interview with a US broadcaster, he praised the confrontational business mogul-cum-president Donald Trump, who pulled out of the nuclear deal, as the leader to broker a new one.

I think there’s one guy who can do a better deal and one guy who understands how to get a difficult partner like Iran over the line and that is the President of the United States Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson’s calls for a replacement to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) deal quickly earned him praise from the president, who described him as “a winner”.

However, the PM’s comments came as he released a joint statement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, expressing their “continued commitment” to the JCPoA.

The statement from the UK, Germany and France after the leaders met in New York said it is “clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack” as they condemned it “in the strongest terms”.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after he formally blamed the Islamic republic for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, and as he prepares to meet the nation’s president Hassan Rouhani and Mr Trump in separate meetings on Tuesday.

“If it was a bad deal, and I’m willing to accept that it had many, many defects, then let’s do a better deal,” the PM said in an interview at the residence of the UK consulate general in New York.

“And I think there’s one guy who can do a better deal and one guy who understands how to get a difficult partner like Iran over the line and that is the president of the United States.

“So I hope that there will be a Trump deal, to be totally honest with you.”

But Downing Street moved to stress that Mr Johnson supports the nuclear deal.

“The PM supports the JCPoA,” a Government spokesman said.

“The Iranians aren’t currently in compliance and we need to bring them back into compliance. If there’s a way to do that, we’re open to discussing possible solutions.”

Also in the interview, Mr Johnson said military force over Iran is “not something that I think will necessarily help the situation”.

Mr Johnson was talking after a terse exchange of words with Iran, saying Iran was responsible for the Aramco attacks with a “very high degree of probability”.

Iran countered by rejecting the PM’s remarks and criticising “fruitless efforts against the Islamic republic of Iran”.

“The British Government should stop selling lethal weapons to Saudi Arabia” over the war in Yemen, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

The US and Saudi Arabia had already accused Iran of being behind the September 14 raids on the world’s largest oil processor and an oil field, causing a spike in prices.

But Mr Johnson gave the first attribution of blame from the UK before landing in the US in the early hours of Monday UK time, as he flew to the States. Tehran has issued denials.

“We think it very likely indeed that Iran was indeed responsible for using both UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), both drones and cruise missiles,” he said.

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family Handout/PA)

The PM said he would “follow very closely” American proposals to do more to defend Saudi Arabia, with Tehran’s ire being further provoked by the US-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways.

Mr Johnson said he would bring up the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals being held in Tehran when he meets Mr Rouhani.

The PM has come under intense criticism over his handling of the British-Iranian mother’s case as foreign secretary.

She is midway through a five-year jail sentence for spying charges, which she has always denied.

“In the course of my conversation with President Rouhani, I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region, but also the need to release not just Nazanin but others who in our view are being illegally and unfairly held in Tehran,” he said.

The UK was dismissing claims by Yemen’s Houthi movement that it was behind the Aramco attacks.

A Whitehall source said: “Imagery from the site of the attack shows the remnants of Iranian-made land attack cruise missiles and the scale, sophistication and range of the attack is inconsistent with the Houthis’ capability.”

PA

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